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SPECIES:  Bolboschoenus robustus
Sturdy bulrush. Image in: Francis, Mary Evans. 1912. The book of grasses: an illustrated guide to the common grasses, and the most common of the rushes and sedges. Hosted by Wikimedia Commons.


SPECIES: Bolboschoenus robustus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Snyder, S. A. 1991. Bolboschoenus robustus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: On 10 September 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: seacoast bulrush to: sturdy bulrush. Images were also added. ABBREVIATION: BOLROB SYNONYMS: Schoenoplectus robustus (Pursh.) M.T. Strong [31] Scirpus maritimus L. var. macrostachyus Michx. Scirpus robustus Pursh [9] NRCS PLANT CODE: BORO5 COMMON NAMES: sturdy bulrush alkali bulrush bulrush leafy three-cornered sedge saltmarsh bulrush seacoast bulrush seaside club-rush stout bulrush three-cornered rush TAXONOMY: The scientific name of sturdy bulrush is Bolboschoenus robustus (Pursh) SojŠk (Cyperaceae) [32]. LIFE FORM: Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO ENTRY


SPECIES: Bolboschoenus robustus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Sturdy bulrush is distributed along the East Coast of North America from Nova Scotia south through Florida, and along the Gulf Coast into Mexico [9]. Populations exist in California along the coast and in inland deserts [24,29].
Distribution of sturdy bulrush. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC. [2018, September 10] [27].
   FRES16  Oak - gum - cypress
   FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch
   FRES32  Texas savanna
   FRES41  Wet grasslands

     AL  CA  FL  GA  LA  ME  MD  MA  MS  NV

    3  Southern Pacific Border
    7  Lower Basin and Range
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont

   K049  Tule marshes
   K080  Marl - Everglades
   K090  Live oak - sea oats
   K091  Cypress savanna
   K092  Everglades
   K105  Mangrove
   K114  Pocosin

   101  Baldcypress
   102  Baldcypress - tupelo
   103  Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
   106  Mangrove
   108  Red maple
   255  California coast live oak


Sturdy bulrush is an obligate wetland species [24]. 


SPECIES: Bolboschoenus robustus
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Sturdy bulrush is valuable to wildlife as food and cover. Muskrat and waterfowl eat the seeds [20,21]. In the coastal plain of Louisiana, sturdy bulrush is one of the most important waterfowl foods as measured by gizzard content [3]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: Sturdy bulrush provides cover for fiddler crabs and nesting ducks [3,14]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Sturdy bulrush was used to improve habitat for largemouth bass in the Lake Mead Recreation Area [4]. It established and spread quickly, showing an 88 percent survival rate. After 1 month cover rates increased from 45 percent to 80 percent on one site and from 30 percent to 70 percent on another. OTHER USES AND VALUES: NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Pure stands of Scirpus species in Louisiana saltmarshes are more susceptible to destruction by foraging geese and muskrats than are Scirpus stands mixed with other climax species [16]. After seed planting, water level over the seeds should be maintained at 1 foot for 2 weeks, then reduced to "mudflat stage" [18]. Periodic flooding up to 3 feet should occur until the seeds are established. Seeds can germinate in fresh water but are unable to compete well with other species under these conditions [18].


SPECIES: Bolboschoenus robustus
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Sturdy bulrush is a native, rhizomotous, perennial sedge [9,20,29]. Its triangular culms are 2.3 to 5 feet (0.7-1.5 m) tall, with narrow leaves. It has from one to five spikelets that are 0.4 to 1 inch (1-2.5 cm) long [9,19]. Spikelets have been described as reddish-brown near the coast and more straw-colored inland [19]. Seed heads are brown and occur in dense, conical clusters [6]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Phanerophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Sturdy bulrush regenerates mainly by tuber-forming rhizomes [9,19]. Germination tests have shown seeds to be very viable; 95 percent germinated after exposure to 14 hours of light per day [21]. When exposed to salinity levels of 9,000 p/m, germination is reduced by 50 percent. No germination occurred after salinity levels reached 21,000 p/m [21]. Sturdy bulrush seeds can remain dormant in marsh soils for "long periods" until moisture conditions are favorable [16]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Sturdy bulrush is an obligate wetland species found in brackish coastal and inland marshes [9,24]. In California it usually grows below 1,000 feet (305 m), but in the Great Basin it is found between 2,000 and 5,000 feet (610-1,524 m) [19]. Soil salinities of sturdy bulrush communities have been measured between 3,000 and 22,000 p/m, but it appears to grow best when salinity levels average between 3,000 and 7,000 p/m [20,21]. Water depths in these Scirpus communities average between -6 and +5 inches (-15 and +13 cm). Soil pH ranges from 4.3 to 6.4 [20,21]. Common associates of sturdy bulrush include common reed (Phragmites communis), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), cordgrass (Spartina spp.), American bulrush (Scirpus americanus), widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima), coastal saltgrass (Distichlis spicata var. spicata), sedge (Carex spp.), buckbrush (Baccharis halimifolia), marsh button (Achyranthes philoxeroides), seaside goldenrod (Solidago mexicana), cattail (Typha spp.), bulltongue (Sagittaria spp.), and cutgrass (Zizaniopsis miliacea) [3,11,21,22]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Sturdy bulrush is a pioneer species in coastal marshes where soil is exposed and water levels fluctuate [21,22]. In areas where fire is excluded, sturdy bulrush is subclimax to marshbay cordgrass (Spartina patens) but could become dominant with frequent fire. In the absence of disturbance, it is outcompeted and eventually crowded out by climax species [13]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Sturdy bulrush sprouts in early spring, flowers between April and August, and fruits between July and October [9,19]. After a brief dormant period in summer, it will resprout in the fall if soils are flooded again [18]. Water level fluctuations of 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) in spring, summer, or early fall will increase sturdy bulrush [20].


SPECIES: Bolboschoenus robustus
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Sturdy bulrush can survive fire by sprouting from rhizomes [9]. However, because sturdy bulrush grows in coastal and wetland areas fire may be infrequent. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Bolboschoenus robustus
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Fire removes all aboveground vegetation of sturdy bulrush [11]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT: Chabreck [2] reported that fall burning of Scirpus communities benefitted this genus. Fire in brackish coastal marshes can increase minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium [13]. The absolute concentration of these and other minerals increased in Scirpus shoots following a January/February burn in the coastal marshes of Mississippi [8]. Because sturdy bulrush has much deeper rhizomes than the dominant marshbay cordgrass, fire can be used to enhance sturdy bulrush in areas where cordgrass is not desired [13]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Sturdy bulrush can sprout as quickly as 1 week following fire [13]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE: In Mississippi coastal marshes, prescribed fire effects on vegetation were simulated by clipping all aboveground vegetation in areas where soils were wet or where there was standing water [11]. This caused an increase in net primary production of Spartina communities that included sturdy bulrush. However, sturdy bulrush itself did not show an increase in abundance here as reported by others in similar communities [2,13]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: In the South, sturdy bulrush can be burned during late winter to enhance food for geese and muskrats [16]. However, ash could possibly retard vegetative recovery of marshland plants [8]. Burning an entire marsh community at one time is not recommended because different stages of plant community development are needed for various animal life cycle stages [11]. Perkins [30] recommended burning Scirpus marshes between October and January to maintain constant annual growth.

References for species: Bolboschoenus robustus

1. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]
2. Chabreck, Robert H. 1981. Effect of burn date on regrowth rate of Scirpus olneyi and Spartina patens. Proceedings, Annual Conference Southeastern Associations of Game and Fish Agencies. 35: 201-210. [14504]
3. Chamberlain, J. L. 1959. Gulf Coast marsh vegetation as food of wintering waterfowl. Journal of Wildlife Management. 23(1): 97-102. [14535]
4. Croft, Lisa K.; Haley, Jennifer S.; Paulson, Larry J. 1990. The Lake Mead cover enhancement project: planting native vegetation creates new habitat. In: Hughes, H. Glenn; Bonnicksen, Thomas M., eds. Restoration `89: the new management challange: Proceedings, 1st annual meeting of the Society for Ecological Restoration; 1989 January 16-20; Oakland, CA. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Society for Ecological Restoration: 403-419. [14713]
5. De LaCruz, A. A. 1974. Primary productivity of coastal marshes in Mississippi. Gulf Research Reports. 4: 351-356. [16942]
6. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]
7. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
8. Faulkner, Samuel P.; de la Cruz, Armando A. 1982. Nutrient mobilization following winter fires in an irregularly flooded marsh. Journal of Environmental Quality. 11(1): 129-133. [16155]
9. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]. Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press. 1632 p. (Dudley, Theodore R., gen. ed.; Biosystematics, Floristic & Phylogeny Series; vol. 2) [14935]
10. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
11. Hackney, Courtney T.; de la Cruz, Armando A. 1981. Effects of fire on brackish marsh communities: managememt implications. Wetlands. 1: 75-86. [14534]
12. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 730 p. [1168]
13. Hoffpauier, Clark M. 1968. Burning for coastal marsh management. In: Newsom, John D., ed. Proceedings of the marsh and estuary management symposium; 1967; Baton Rouge, LA. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University: 134-139. [15274]
14. Kerwin, J. A. 1971. Distribution of the fiddler crab (Uca minax) in relation to marsh plants within a Virginia estuary. Chesapeake Science. 12: 180-183. [16943]
15. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
16. Lynch, John J.; O'Neil, Ted; Lay, Daniel W. 1947. Management significance of damage by geese and muskrats to Gulf Coast marshes. Journal of Wildlife Management. 11(1): 50-76. [14559]
17. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496]
18. Miller, A. Wendell. 1962. Waterfowl habitat improvement in California. In: Proceedings, annual conference of Western Association of State Fish & Game Commissioners. [Volume unknown]: 112-118. [15439]
19. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155]
20. Neely, William W. 1962. Saline soils and brackish waters in managment of wildlife, fish, and shrimp. Transactions of the North American Wildlife Conference. 27: 321-335. [14643]
21. Palmisano, Angelo W., Jr.; Newsom, John D. 1968. Ecological factors affecting occurrence of Scirpus olneyi and Scirpus robustus in the Louisiana coastal marshes. Proceedings, 21st Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissions. 21: 161-172. [15303]
22. Penfound, W. T.; Hathaway, Edward S. 1938. Plant communities in the marshlands of southeastern Louisiana. Ecological Monographs. 8(1): 3-56. [15089]
23. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
24. Reed, Porter B., Jr. 1988. National list of plant species that occur in wetlands: California (Region O). Biological Report 88(26.10). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. In cooperation with: National and Regional Interagency Review Panels. 135 p. [9312]
25. Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p. [13158]
26. Singleton, J. R. 1951. Production and utilization of waterfowl food plants on the east Texas Gulf Coast. Journal of Wildlife Management. 15(1): 46-56. [14536]
27. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262]
28. Godfrey, Robert K.; Wooten, Jean W. 1979. Aquatic and wetland plants of southeastern United States: Monocotyledons. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 712 p. [16906]
29. Mason, Herbert L. 1957. A flora of the marshes of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 878 p. [16905]
30. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 10 p. [20090]
31. Kartesz, John T.; Meacham, Christopher A. 1999. Synthesis of the North American flora (Windows Version 1.0), [CD-ROM]. Available: North Carolina Botanical Garden In cooperation with the Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [2001, January 16]. [38380]
32. Flora of North America Association. 2009. Flora of North America: The flora, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: [36990]

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